Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. How are you coping with the problem of COVID-19? Are you safe? Well, the same matters changed many things here in Nairobi, Kenya, too.
March – Finally Arrived
In the beginning of March, the coronavirus and its spread was just a headline in the news. It killed many in Asia and Europe; we knew that soon it would arrive here in Africa. Even before the first case in Nairobi, people reacted harshly with fear. When I walked down the road, I heard a few times people saying, “Wewe Mchaina mwenye Corona virus” (You Chinese with Corona Virus). Then there were reports about victims of ignorance and fearful violence. Finally, they detected the first case of infection by the virus and everyone looked puzzled. In response, the government did not hesitate. Immediately and suddenly, it announced that schools and churches should be closed. The Bible College of East Africa and its affiliated mission stations rushed to follow the instructions. BCEA students were dismissed to go home, church worship services and fellowships were stopped and kindergarten children went for a long vacation. By the end of March, only few remained within our BCEA compound. Our main concern was by then, how to keep ourselves safe, and where can we get masks?
April – Slow Spread
The government announced a lockdown of Nairobi and a curfew at night. All government offices closed. If anyone was found not following the instructions, there appeared armed police officers who did their job to dismiss any public gatherings. Making it more difficult, it rained heavily in the month of April in Nairobi and in the nearby counties. Some areas were affected by flooding, which kept the people in their own places. To stay home was indeed safe! Yet, it had negative affects also. Business and economic activities declined, and people lost jobs. I saw only a few people and even fewer vehicles on the roads, even in the daytime. Almost every shop was shut down. The city appeared quiet and empty. Every day the updated numbers of those infected and deaths by the coronavirus was reported. Yes, the number was far less than that of European and Asian countries. Everyone said “the government is trying too much”. Yet, the unspoken questions remained unanswered: “How accurate were the reports?” and “How accurately did they examine these cases?” Most of time I stayed at home alone here on the compound, reading, doing house chores, manual works, and of course praying. I also called often to see if my parents and siblings were safe on the other side of the world.
May – Coping With It
Well, the rain finally stopped. People on the streets were tired of being at home, so they put on masks and came out. A variety of masks are seen around, from the medical type to very African type (colorful like traditional costumes). But do they have proper filters in them and do they work? One day the news on TV reported that some civil workers had misused donations that were sent from abroad to fight the coronavirus. So disappointing, yet not surprising! Why? Because sin takes no holiday during a pandemic. Also, we saw that people came out to do drive-through grocery shopping in the open air. They had their cars parked right next to the main road and sold their fruits and vegetables right there. These are unusual times.
There was no more rain in the month of May, but instead we had strong sunlight throughout, every day. The previous heavy rain left our BCEA garden overgrown with grass and weeds. BCEA students called to say hi, “Miss Bai, are you safe? What do you do nowadays?” I answered “Niko sawa. Natoa magugu” (I am OK. I remove weeds). Others, who stayed on campus, were busy maintaining the compound and buildings keeping them clean and neat.
June – Moving To Next Steps
On June 6th the government announced schools may open in September. The second term (out of three) in our one-year curriculum will be missed this year. Normally, from October onward they have the national examinations for Kenya Certificates for Primary and Secondary Education, and even do interviews for primary schools’ enrollment. Since they missed the second term, it will be hard to figure out what will happen with the educational institutions after September.
I also look after the bookkeeping of the college and its affiliated kindergartens, and I notice the expenditures do not change much. I notice that items like salaries, security, utilities, insurance, taxes, water, inspection of vehicles, annual auditing remain the same, even though we are not in school days. If the institutional level experiences this, what about the individuals? Now and then I hear about church members who lost their jobs. Those who worked casual jobs like washing clothes and dishes were denied work in order to avoid contacting the coronavirus. It is hard for jobless, single mothers in slum areas to find fees for food and rent. Pastors are also not exempt. The pastors used to be paid by their own church. Nowadays, churches in Kenya (and all over the world) were shut down, no Sunday service, nor Sunday offerings. This affects pastors financially. The immediate coping with this situation is one step. Maintaining good health and safety are other steps needed to move on. It is not easy for so many.
Please continue praying for this mission field. Once schools and church open, and gatherings of people are allowed, the spread of the virus might be just a twinkle of an eye within the environmental context of Kenya, or even in all of Africa.
Also let me take this opportunity to thank those who willingly gave, and continue to help the needy during this time of pandemic. It was a great help and encouragement. May God bless you and protect you.
In His service,
Bai, Eun Young